CENTRAL COMMAND THEATER OF OPERATION -- Cruising in humvees, Assault Amphibian Vehicles and 7-ton trucks, Marines cover more ground in less time than they used to. But machines break down faster than Marines do, and a mechanical problem at the wrong time can jeopardize the mission.
The Marines assigned to Maintenance Detachment, Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24, are dedicated to ensuring that if a Marine needs to roll, he’s riding rather than walking.
The 24th MEU’s Maintenance Det – known within the MSSG as the “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” is responsible for maintaining all the vehicles in its inventory. Maintenance can range from checking tire pressure on a humvee to swapping out a transmission on a 7-ton truck; and they do it day in and day out. From the time the vehicles roll off the ship, problems typically arise, threatening to bog down the timely movement of Marines. The Maintenance Det is standing by, ready to get those leathernecks back in the fight.
“As soon as we get off the ship, we’re under a truck, wrenching on something, fixing something,” said Sgt. David Lopez, 25, a Lemont, Calif., native. “Everyone knows that once we get off the boat, we’ve gotta (hustle), so we need to keep everyone moving.”
But it’s not all fixing vehicles. The Maintenance Det Marines are required to know how to fix just about any type of equipment the 24th MEU fields. They can fix trailers, water purification equipment, generators, heavy equipment and anything else that breaks in or out of the field.
The desert can wreak havoc with vehicles that haven’t been conditioned for the extreme heat and dust. The climate is usually the culprit when vehicles and equipment go down.
“Being in a hot climate, the trucks aren’t used to it. The armor puts stress on the engines and transmissions, and the hills out here also play a part in vehicles going down,” said Sgt. Thomas Williams, a 33-year-old native of Houston. “It’s our job to get them back up and running,”
The Maintenance Det also has its own version of roadside assistance, with Marines standing by for emergencies that might require them to tow a vehicle, pull a vehicle out of a tight spot if it gets stuck, or perform field maintenance during an operation.
During the 24th MEU’s current exercise in the Central Command theater of operation, the Maintenance Marines put down their wrenches to hit the ranges to increase their weapons proficiency and give them one more way to support Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and the other units attached to the MEU.
“We are doing everything that everyone else is doing, we are going to the ranges and doing our normal Marine Corps routine along with making sure that everyone else is up and running so they can get their training done,” said Lopez.